What’s the difference between a responsive website and a mobile website?

lafeatsmobileI received this question over the weekend, and it made me realize that it’s a great question. These days, everyone uses a smart phone and your website needs to be able to handle that. People on their phones need to be able view your website, and use it easily. So what’s the difference?

A responsive website is a website that adjusts size and scales to fit different sized monitors and devices. A mobile website is website that has a different version solely for mobile users.

On a mobile website, the website will detect what browser the user is using, and change the version they see accordingly. For these sites, you’ll often see a “view desktop version” type of link at the bottom.

For responsive sites, everything on the site will condense to create a mobile friendly viewing experience. The menu will collapse, sidebars will drop, and images will shrink.

How do I know which is which? If you want to know if a site is responsive, all you have to do is grab the corner of your browser window on your desktop computer and shrink it. If the content collapses to stay within the area of the screen, then the site is responsive. If it doesn’t, but you see a different version on your phone, then that’s a mobile version. And some sites don’t have either, which I definitely don’t recommend!

Which is better? I don’t know if I can say for sure. Some sites are better suited for a mobile version than responsive. Our current site is not responsive, so if you shrink your browser window, it won’t resize. But we do have a mobile version for mobile users. (In our new, revamped site coming soon, it will be responsive.)

If you frequently visit some bigger news sites, such as CNN and the NYT, you will notice that those sites are not responsive, but have mobile versions and apps for their mobile users. There’s definitely merit to either option, it really depends on what your goals and budget are for site to decide which way to go. Adding a mobile plugin to a WordPress site is really simple and inexpensive, but doesn’t always keep with your branding.

Need help with a mobile version of your site, or need a new, responsive website? We can help! Contact us for a quote today.

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Amy Masson

Amy is the co-owner, developer, and website strategist for Sumy Designs. She's been making websites with WordPress since 2006 and is passionate about making sure websites are as functional as they are beautiful.

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